Medical professionals assigned to Ramstein Air Base and Rhine Ordnance Barracks began mass administering mumps, measles and rubella, and chickenpox vaccines to Afghan evacuees awaiting onward travel.
The mass vaccination began Sept. 16, at the request of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention due to a small number of measles cases in the U.S. among newly arrived evacuees from Afghanistan.
“These vaccines offer them the ability to have extra protection,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Jaime Rojas, 86th Medical Group chief of aerospace medicine. “With the extra protection of the vaccines, wherever we end up sending them, there is protection for both the individual and for the people at the end destination as well.”
The vaccinations are required before the CDC mandated flight pause to the U.S. is lifted and evacuee flight operations can resume.
“The sooner that we can get away from our primary mission of doing this operation with the individuals that are currently here, the sooner that we get back to our main mission, our medical readiness, and our ability to focus on our primary mission,” Rojas said.
The mass administration of the COVID vaccines for military members allowed this mass vaccination to occur seamlessly, with teams at Ramstein and ROB vaccinating more than 3,000 evacuees with the MMR and chickenpox vaccine during the first day.
“There’s absolutely lessons learned throughout this whole process,” Rojas said. “We’ve been doing so many COVID operations that this is kind of like another walk in the park for us because we already had the standard operation procedures in place. As soon as we heard that this may happen, the vaccines were here within a week and administered the day after arrival.”
Administering vaccinations safely and efficiently has not only been the main priority at Ramstein, but also at ROB.
“We were able to modify our existing medical and reception processes to vaccinate hundreds of people each day,” said U.S. Army Capt. Alexander Lovely, 39th Movement Control Battalion officer in charge. “(ROB) is on track to complete the majority of all vaccinations by our projected completion date. Due to our preparedness, we have been able to conduct our daily operations in addition to our mass vaccination efforts.”
Protecting the local community and evacuees will remain at the forefront of the evacuee operation. Rapidly and safely administering vaccinations to the evacuee population is helping ensure the health and well-being of the entire base and local community.